The Fed steps in to help a troubled Wall Street investment firm.

The Fed steps in to help a troubled Wall Street investment firm.

The Fed steps in to help a troubled Wall Street investment firm.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 15 2008 5:48 AM

Bear Down

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal all lead with bad financial news: A big Wall Street investment firm ran out of money to pay off its lenders before being bailed out by the Federal Reserve. The Fed's fix, hatched out in midnight meetings, is temporary; Bear Stearns has 28 days to clean up its act or find a buyer. Wall Street is rattled and stocks are sinking despite the save. The WSJ tops its world-wide newsbox with, and the other papers front, word of violent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet.

The cause of the financial turmoil is … the credit mess! The NYT notes highest-up of the papers that Bear suffered big time in the recent credit crisis because of its many mortgage-linked investments. The WP is the most apocalyptic, reporting that had the Fed not intervened, Bear's failure "could have sent multibillion-dollar losses cascading across the world financial system … threatening to choke off global economic growth." (In a separate analysis piece, the NYT explains the "Wall St. Domino Theory.") Near the beginning of its story, the Post paraphrases critics who say the Fed has inappropriately involved itself in the free market and set a precedent that will encourage other firms to be reckless.

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The WSJ says it's "the first time since the Great Depression that the Fed has lent in this fashion to any entity other than a bank." The WSJ adds a human touch to the story, reporting that yesterday some Bear employees called their spouses from work to say they might be out of a job soon. Looking out for the West Coast, the LAT reports that Bear's CFO says the firm will honor its existing obligations to the state of California in managing two state bond sales.

All the papers front ugly news from the capital of Tibet: Hundreds of people in Lhasa are protesting Chinese rule and clashing with Chinese troops. Ten people are reported dead in what the WSJ calls an "uprising" (the other papers settle for violence). The Chinese government blames the Dalai Lama, who issued a statement calling for both sides to stop being violent. The WP reports that some Tibetans are unleashing their long-simmering anger at Chinese domination by attacking shops owned by ethnic Chinese. The papers agree that with Olympic Games coming up in August, the crisis in Tibet puts the Chinese government in a trickier-than-usual PR situation. 

The NYT fronts another reminder that our system for nominating presidential candidates isn't very good. The Democratic Party doesn't know what to do with Michigan and Florida, states whose delegates the Democratic National Committee refuses to honor because local party bosses held early primaries in violation of national party rules. Some party officials in Michigan want a revote, and some Clinton fundraisers are demanding the return of money they gave to the DNC if the party refuses to seat Florida's delegates at the national convention. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton campaigned in either state.

North Korea is in big food trouble this year, according to a below-the-fold WP story. Every spring, other countries bail out the starving state with food aid, but crop failure in-country and rising food prices worldwide will make this the toughest year for the regime since the mid '90s, when millions of North Koreans died of starvation.

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The LAT reportson Barack Obama's letter to the Huffington Post, in which the senator from Illinois repudiates controversial statements by his church's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. The WP does one better, reporting that the Obama campaign has officially severed ties with Wright. The pastor no longer serves on Obama's African-American Religious Leadership Committee. The Times' storyreminds readers that Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain last month received the endorsement of controversial pastor John Hagee, who has said some mean things about Catholics.

The WP fronts a look at a U.S.-funded program for training Palestinian security forces, which the Post says is horribly underresourced. U.S. and Jordanian trainers are improvising, doing things like buying gun-shaped cigarette lighters for use in arrest drills. The WP notes that President Bush's 2003 blueprint for Middle East peace calls for an effective Palestinian security force.

The LAT fronts big news that hospital workers at the UCLA Medical Center can't stop spying on flameout pop star Britney Spears. At least 13 have been fired for peeking at her confidential records, at least six have been suspended, and six actual physicians are facing disciplinary measures. One hospital official is quoted saying she doesn't understand why Spears attracts the snoopers when so many other celebrities are also treated at the hospital.

Men wear girdles now. The WSJ fronts word that gut-suppressing, butt-supporting undergarments are the new big thing in men's fashion. In case readers doubt that this is a bona fide trend, the Journal reports that sales growth in men's underwear has recently outpaced that of women's. Call him insensitive, immature, or old-fashioned, but TP cannot stop giggling at the "Flashback Butt Lifting Technology Boxer."